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12 Free & Free-to-Play Video Games Ideal for the Senior Set

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12 Free & Free-to-Play Video Games Ideal for the Senior Set

The internet offers many kinds of entertainment that can have additional benefits for seniors. One of the most popular of these diversions is video games, which studies have shown can stimulate the hippocampus and bolster functional brain activity. Aside from sharpening your cognitive skills, games can also simply be a fun and rewarding way to pass the time. Even if you're living in an assisted living community like Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville, with a full calendar of social events to enrich daily life, you can still get both fun and cognitive health benefits by making a little room in your schedule for video gaming.

We list below a few choices for senior-friendly, free or free-to-play video games. The internet holds many more possibilities; this guide simply provides a place to start. Remember that the games mentioned here may require gaming consoles, desktop computers, tablets or mobile phones to play. Most of them can be played on multiple platforms.

What "Free-to-Play" Means

Before we start looking at the games themselves, it's important to define the difference between a "free" game and a "free-to-play" one.

A "free" game is the full version of a game, often a fairly simple one, that's hosted online at a site that usually funds itself by serving up ads to visitors. With "free-to-play" or F2P games, a basic version of the game is available for free under the assumption that players will eventually want to purchase additional content in order to play the game at a more advanced level.

You don't have to buy more content in a free-to-play game, and it's important to be wary of getting too wrapped up in doing so. F2P games are designed to tempt you into spending at least some amount of money on them, and some are more insistent than others. Where this guide recommends a F2P title as opposed to a free one, we've tried to go with the options that provide the most fun at their basic level and are least obnoxious about encouraging players to buy added content.

1. Free Online Games

You can find a wide range of online versions of familiar board games online. Some of the games most commonly recommended as being senior-friendly include:

Online Versions of Board Games

  • Chess. Most online chess sites have membership sign-ups that allow them to track players' past games and standings. A given site might be a meeting place for millions of players worldwide.
  • Jigsaw Puzzles. A stimulating pastime that provides a great workout for both sides of the brain, jigsaw puzzles can be found online in the thousands.
  • Mahjong. The classic Chinese tile game is a standard offering at many free gaming sites. Besides just being fun, it improves recall, planning and calculation skills.
  • Scrabble. Play the classic word game against friends or online contenders and keep the language centers of your brain nimble.

Classic Video Games

Many classic versions of video game franchises — games that often invented whole genres of computerized play and pioneered a subculture of video gamers from thirty years ago or more — are freely available online.

  • Civilization and Civilization II. These are the early versions of Sid Meier's famous game franchise about creating your own civilization and guiding it from the Bronze Age up to the Space Age. The complex juggling of exploration, diplomacy, trade and defense is both addictive fun and excellent brain-training.
  • The Oregon Trail. A simple but flexible and engrossing game about getting a pioneer wagon train to a land claim in the Old West. It’s one of the earliest and greatest resource-management simulators, and you’ll rely on a mixture of luck and skill to get your pioneers to their new home alive.
  • Pirates! (Gold). Experience grand swashbuckling adventure on the Spanish Main in the golden age of buccaneering. Pirates! combines arcade-style action that's great for training reflexes and response time with thoughtful strategy about surviving on seas full of adversaries and pirate-hunters.

2. Free-to-Play Games

These F2P games are more technically advanced and up-to-date than the free offerings, but they may still be ideal for players of all skill and experience levels.

  • Cube Escape: Paradox. This mystery game is full of intriguing brain-teaser puzzles and loaded with atmosphere. The latest in a series of games, it has nine equally-worthy predecessors that fans might like to seek out.
  • Hearthstone. A beautiful customized card game based on a popular series of heroic fantasy games called World of Warcraft, Hearthstone is a fun challenge all its own, easy to begin but difficult to master.
  • Pinball FX3. Recall the glory days of pinball wizardry with this computerized pinball simulator, which is nearly as good as a real pinball table for giving your hand-eye coordination a workout. The game sports a large online community with user-generated events, tournaments and leagues.
  • Super Mario Run. The link at the opening of this article mentions a study involving a game from the classic Super Mario series, a vast franchise of running, jumping and other sorts of games from Nintendo. Super Mario Run distills the classic gameplay that defined this franchise, presenting fast-paced, colorful and cognitively challenging fun.

The selection of video games enjoyable for seniors, and useful for cognitive health, goes well beyond these twelve examples. We hope you'll find this an engaging point of departure for discovering more about how video games can improve your assisted living community experience.

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